Monday, January 23, 2017

2017 opens with a County First.

A few days back, a birder posted a photo of a Black throated Diver on the Blyth Estuary (Northumberland). When I saw the pic, I thought that it looked a bit odd as it didn't show any white thigh patches, but you know what looking at a single photo is like and the observer was knowledgeable so I left it at that.

The following day or two saw other sightings of Black throated Diver on Cresswell Pond and East Chevington North Pool. It seems there had been an influx of them, except there hadn't, only the one bird was involved.

Once on East Chev, the diver remained fixed for a few days, regularly reported as Black throated by good, reliable, birders, until Friday afternoon that is, when Alan Curry, clearly had his suspicions and left his patch at St Mary's Island to have a look for himself.

Cue message on my phone at 4pm Friday, East Chevington North Pool, 1stW PACIFIC DIVER!

I'm sure no one had predicted that one on the Northumberland list. As it was almost dark, anticipation was mounting in the local birding community by those who had not been to the site, would it be there on Saturday?

I met up with John first thing and off we went on a lovely sunny frosty morning to see if it was still around. A small crowd had gathered at dawn and as it grew daylight, our target could be seen fishing, distantly right out in the open, giving decent scope views, but no good for photos. Never mind, it was No 340 on my county list, so photos were not a priority. I did a few quick pencil sketches on site and added a splash of colour as soon as I got home while still fresh in the memory. Brilliant.

East Chevington North Pool, site of Pacific Diver on Saturday morning.

Pacific Diver Gavia pacifica 

Later on, we found that the diver had flown slightly north onto Druridge Bay Country Park and was giving point blank views to all and sundry, with some excellent photos being taken. Unable to get back down on Saturday due to other commitments, we returned on a dull, cold, Sunday morning for a re-match, and hopefully closer views.

Sure enough, after a short drive around via Snab Point and Druridge Pools where we had a few padders - 1000+ Pink footed Geese, Barnacle Goose, Grey Partridge, 3 Stock Doves, a Ruff, and 2 drake Pintail, we were back at DBCP with the diver showing down to 20 or 30 feet at times. Although it was dull, we all took enough photos to make an A List celeb happy, whilst catching up with friends not seen in a while. A few other birds were noted too while we were here, Peregrine, a Water rail flew over the diver's head at one point, 60+ Siskins and a Kingfisher, so an excellent morning was had...

And to think, 10 years ago we hadn't heard of Pacific Diver when the first was found on a pond in Yorkshire. Since then there have only been 6 records up to 2013, almost all down in the far south west. I wonder if they have been overlooked?

A Northumberland twitch - a mega too.
Pacific Diver showing faint throat strap and dark thigh area.

Note smallish bill and pale greyish fluffy nape and crown.

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Third time lucky...


This morning, the weather forecast was quite uninspiring with rain predicted for most of the day, however, as with most things weather related, the day didn't turn out as reported. It started off dark and overcast but ended up quite bright and fair, and we scarcely saw a drop all morning.

I met with John and headed off to East Chevington again for the third time since Christmas, hoping, again, to catch up with the wintering Shorelark flock, present here since November. Today was to be third time lucky as the birds, all 7 of them, were feeding on a tiny ribbon of strand tidemak as soon as we peered onto the beach. A few dog toting dudes did their very best to chase the birds off, but they were keen to get back and we finally got some great views. One bird in particular was a stunner, a full, horny male, with jet black face and breast markings on a primrose yellow background, while one was a drab female. The other 5 were more intermediate in colour and condition , but all were very nice, charismatic birds.

While John took a few photos, a nice flock of 42 Twite dropped in to feed near the larks.

From here we had a brief stop at Amble Harbour where the local Mediterranean Gull was sat on its rock on the little shore, then we headed off up to Boulmer. The tide was miles out here, but there were a lot of birds, distantly to scan through. There were 35 Bar tailed Godwits, 3 Grey Plover and the juv Glaucous Gull down on the waters edge. Off we set, resulting in John getting some decent shots ( check his blog out here).

As it started out dull, I didnt bring my camera but managed a few shaky seconds of video with my phone hand held on to my scope. Not bad?

Friday, January 13, 2017


What a week I've just put in. Last Friday, I came home from work not feeling too well, typical, I thought, ready for the weekend.

When I got up on Saturday, I had an awful chest cold that has laid me up ever since. I have been mostly stuck indoors with no interest or ability even, in going out due to aches and pains, a horrendous hacking cough and generally the mother of all colds. Since 2004 ( possibly as early as 2002) I have only had a single day off work due to sickness. This week, I took a day leave on Monday to see if that would be enough, but it wasn't so the rest has been sick. Almost unheard of for me, but there is no way I could have dealt with customers at work like this, let alone passing the germs to the whole company.

Wednesday was a low point but the Dr gave me some antibiotics for a chest infection, and this morning, while still gagging when I cough, I feel much better. So much so, I have even been out in the car to the post office, and on the way back, thought I would have a look, from the warmth of the vehicle, at the beach at Boulmer. I'm pleased I did, as the large juvenile Glaucous Gull that has been around a few days now was showing well on the shore.

A short venture forth for some photos, then back to the car incase it mistook me for a dying seal, and now I'm back home again. I hope this thing clears up once and for all...

Monday, January 02, 2017

Hello 2017.

First post of the New Year.

Last year at this time, the weather was dreadful until about the 8th, with wind and rain on a daily basis. This year cold breezy sunshine has been the order of the day since Christmas so long may it continue.

This morning John picked me up and we were at Low Newton for 8am, to add to the year list. As I have already mentioned, this isn't an all out go-for-everything list, it's more of a chance to add variety not only of birds but of locations too, with visits to sites not usually seen by us in a long while, but before all of that, we decided to stick to somewhere we do come to on occasion.

The view south from Low Newton beach towards Dunstanburgh Castle. There aren't many better views than this in England...
 The pool and scrapes were a bit disconcerting as there were 4 men shooting just behind the nature reserve, taking pot shots at geese far to high to drop. Some of these poor birds will get pricked by shot and die slowly of lead poisoning I'm sure. One Greylag on the pond didn't look to clever to start with, with some primaries sticking out at a jaunty angle...

Velvet Scoter, female.
Highlight on the wetlands were 13 Whooper Swans and a Shoveler with a good number of Wigeon. A Water Rail squealed in the phragmites.

A walk along the shore added Purple Sandpiper with commoner waders, Rock Pipits and Stonechats before a tea stop back at the car. From here we headed out to the point to check Football Hole, a small sea cove that is good for seafowl.

Today it was excellent with a cracking female Velvet Scoter showing well in bright sunshine, having a hint of Harlequin about it with the bright white ear spot. It made me wish I'd brought the camera, but I hadn't so the notebook came out. I felt I had to take something of it home with me. Also in the hole were 10 Long tailed Ducks, all female types, 13 Goldeneye, 4 Common Scoter, 2 Red throated Diver and a Guillemot. Offshore, a few birds passed including Gannets, Kittiwakes and another 4+ Red throated Divers.

On our way back, a seed crop next to the point had a nice flock of 25+ Skylarks and a few Yellowhammers and Reed Buntings.

Only one day of holiday left before work on Wednesday...

Saturday, December 31, 2016

Old Years Day....

Seaton Point facing East.

Field sketch of the Kingfisher.
At lunch time I took the opportunity to get out for an hour down to Seaton Point for a walk. It was busier that expected with lots of families, dogs, kids with names like 'Ollie' and women dressed not quite appropriately for a Northumberland coastal winter walk.

Regardless, I made my way to a small bench seat over looking the skeers out from the point and sat with my scope waiting to see what would appear.

Soon, as I scanned, a blurred smudge in the foreground over the rocks was focussed down into a hovering Kingfisher. It hung on the wind, wings whirring for some time before dropping vertically into an unseen pool and emerging with a small fish. This behaviour was repeated several times over the next half an hour with the bird perching up on weed covered rocks to digest its catch in between sorties. It didnt look comfortable in the wind, its feathers being ruffled and it was even blown off its perch on a couple of occasions.

As the tide flooded, I took my eye off the halcyon, to make a sketch and when I tried to relocate it, it had gone.

Other birds of note included a couple of Grey Plovers, 10 Ringed Plover, Shag, Gannet and Red throated Diver off shore, and a flock of 11 Mistle Thrushes back near the car.

With that, I will bid you all a Happy New Year for tonight, and hope you have an exciting, wildlife filled, 2017. All the best!

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Christmas List

Ages ago, over the Christmas period, Andrew Dawes of Wessex Reiver blog challenged everyone to a Christmas doldrums bird race. I haven't done anything similar since, apart from the local patch thingy and a laid back, head to head with Mr Gale of Surrey.  I was interested the other week, when Andrew threw down the gauntlet again for another week of petty competitiveness where by we all get out between Christmas Day and New Years Day and count how many bird species we see.

As this festive holiday is often quite busy and taken up with visiting family and friends, the challenge can be taken in a very tongue in cheek manner, the whole point being to have fun during the final week of the year.

My week got off to a damp fizzle seeing next to nothing on Christmas Day ( 9 species) and Boxing Day ( not many more). Today was my first proper morning's birding this month so every sighting was to be savoured and made all the more delicious by the sharp, bright, calm weather we crave at this traditionally dull and wet time of year.

I met with John at Amble, first thing, and we covered the whole south side of the Coquet Estuary from the sea upstream to Warkworth. Not wishing to let the cat out of the bag, all I'll say is that a few nice birds were seen such as Little Egret, Peregrine, several Knot, 3 Purple Sandpipers, 40+ Black-tailed Godwits, Mediterranean Gull etc.

Hopefully the weather will hold this week, and I'll build a reasonable total without racing around twitching everyone else's finds. I'll save that one for 2017...

Amble Pier

Adult Med Gull

Eiders in full display, while not eating Warburtons.

Some of the Black tailed Godwits on the estuary.

The calls during disputes were just like a dog's squeaky toy.

Thursday, December 22, 2016

I'm still here...

Just a quickie to say I am still here, but have not lifted my binoculars, let alone taken a photo, since November!

Early in the month, I was getting fed up not seeing daylight at home until the weekend, so I deliberately jacked it all in. I thought, as this is quite a busy domestic time on the run up to Christmas, I would go into a temporary wildlife and birding lull until I had some time off over the holiday period.

Oh am I ready for it! Today is my first day of leave and I wont return to work until 4th Jan so hopefully I will get out into the field again soon. Christmas day and Boxing day are fully booked but the 27th is looking favourable to get out and blow the cobwebs away...

Whilst I haven't been out there, looking for wildlife, I have been pondering what to do in 2017. I always make a provisional plan or two, that usually gets ignored, but its good to think about the way forward.

This coming New Year I think I might keep a year list. I always used to keep one back in the 80s and 90's, but haven't done so since. Its usually all about the local patch, but I might broaden horizons a little. Now my year lists don't descend into hyper active all out twitching, they are a much more sedate affair, involving a few trips out for favourable birds, a couple of holidays in other parts of the country and catching up on local scarce breeders and winterers at home, you know, species, often miseds out on in a year such as black grouse, wood warbler, long tailed skua etc.

I've also pondered doing a bit more field sketching if I can fit it in, and I even might try wetting a fishing line this year? Who knows?

Regardless of what I get up to, you'll be the first (or second) to know.......

An old one from the notebook...